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      Jailed pastor paid $1,300 to kill 'someone in his way'

      Gunman Daniel Lopez

      An El Ranchito pastor accused in a murder plot to kill his wife allegedly paid hit men $1,300 to 'take care' of 'someone in his way.'

      Julio Cesar Perez remains in custody on a capital murder charge for the death of his wife Sonia Perez.

      A Cameron County Sheriff's Department deputy patrolling FM 1846 between San Benito and Rio Hondo found her body inside the family's van last Thursday night.

      An investigation led deputies to Perez's husband, a pastor at the Ministerios Manantial de la Vida chruch in El Ranchito.

      Court records released on Monday show that Perez paid a total of $1,300 and told different stories to people he contacted for the contract killing.

      Covering His Tracks

      A probable cause affidavit released on Monday shows that Julio Cesar Perez reported his wife as missing around 10:28 p.m. Thursday.

      Perez told deputies that he last had contact with his wife via text message around 3:30 p.m. that he was making chicken for dinner.

      The couple's oldest daughter told him that her mother didn't pick up.

      Perez picked up their youngest daughter and later went to get their oldest daughteri buying her Whataburger on the way home.

      The El Ranchito pastor called the principal of Rio Hondo Intermediate School to ask about his wife.

      The affidavit shows that Sonia Perez's body was found off FM 1846 and Robles Road at 10:49 p.m. Thursday.

      The family's Ford Astro Van was left running with the lights on. Deputies found Perez's body with her foot still pressing on the brakes.

      No bullet casings were found inside the van.

      'Someone In the Way'

      A woman came forward on Saturday with information that changed the case and implicated the pastor in his wife's death.

      The woman said Julio Cesar Perez had approached her three weeks ago asking for help to find someone help him 'take care of a problem.'

      The pastor told the woman that he knew she had previously hired two men to assault, rob and restrain someone who was harassing her.

      Perez told the woman that 'someone was in his way.'

      The woman allegedly put Perez in touch with 19-year-old Gabriel Apolinar Escalante.

      First Version

      Escalante allegedly told the woman's sister that Perez wanted to have his lover killed.

      Perez reportedly said the woman had been harassing him and that she worked as a school teacher and lived in Los Indios.

      Escalante declined to do the job himself because the target was a woman but worked as a middleman between Perez and the gunman, who was only identified as 'Dan.'

      Deputies told Action 4 News that 'Dan' has been identified as 37-year-old Daniel Flores Lopez, who lives of FM 2520 and Military Highway south of San Benito.


      The affidavit shows that Escalante first met with Perez at an Auto Zone store off Central Boulevard in Brownsville to make a $200 down payment three weeks ago.

      Perez allegedly told Escalante that he was having a 'situation' with his wife and needed someone to 'take care of the problem.'

      Escalante took the money and gave Perez the telephone number for Lopez.

      All three men later met off Nelson Road outside San Benito where Perez gave Lopez a $100 down payment.

      A second meeting took place in the parking lot of the Payless Shoe Store in San Benito where Perez gave Lopez another $1,000 dollars.

      A third meeting took place at a tortilleria off Highway 281 on the day of the murder.

      Perez allegedly pulled in up in a car with a little girl.

      Lopez allegedly told the pastor the job had been done and where his wife's body was located.


      The affidavit shows that Lopez confessed to Escalante that he had killed Sonia Perez and showed him a .357-revolver.

      Both Perez an Escalante remain behind bars on capital murder charges.

      Sheriff's deputies spent Monday searching for Lopez.

      Chief Deputy Gus Reyna told Action 4 News that deputies arrested Lopez early Monday afternoon.

      The 37-year-old capital murder suspect is expected to be arraigned on Tuesday morning.